Wednesday, August 22 , 2018, 1:35 am | Fair 63º


Local News

Santa Barbara Rides Out Tsunami Surges Unscathed; Advisory Still in Effect

No evacuation orders are issued and no damage reported, but county officials urge residents to remain alert through Saturday

Santa Barbara County residents and emergency officials were on high alert for tidal surges on Friday after a large tsunami was generated by a devastating 8.9-magnitude earthquake off Japan’s northeastern coast.

The statewide tsunami warning was downgraded to an advisory Friday afternoon, but the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Services warned residents to stay out of the ocean through Saturday and to be vigilant if on the beach or near the water. There remains a serious risk to swimmers, including riptides and strong currents.

On Saturday, high tide for Santa Barbara is listed at 1:30 a.m. at 4.3 feet and low tide at 10:08 a.m., according to Saltwater Tides.

No evacuation orders were issued on the South Coast, but Richard Abrams of the OES said sheriff’s deputies were posted in some low-lying areas, such as Goleta Beach, to keep people away. No damages were reported in the county, though Santa Cruz and Crescent City in Northern California experienced damage to boats and harbors.

In Santa Cruz, officials reported the sinking of about 20 boats and damage to 100 more, in addition to significant harbor infrastructure damage.

The first tsunami-related death in the United States on Friday was that of a Crescent City man who was swept out to sea while taking photographs of the waves. According to various news reports, the man’s friends reported it to authorities, and the U.S. Coast Guard searched for the 25-year-old for several hours before he was presumed dead. Four other people were swept out to sea in California but made it back to shore or were rescued.

In Santa Barbara, several dozen people gathered at Stearns Wharf by 8:30 a.m. Friday — some of whom seemed far from alarmed and were enjoying their morning coffee. Harbor Patrol was active near the pier.

Waterfront officials told Noozhawk that 1.3-foot to 1.5-foot waves were detected Friday morning, when the first waves from the earthquake were expected to hit the area. Tidal surges continued throughout the day, and authorities repeatedly encouraged residents to be cautious near the water.

The Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach was closed, and park rangers turned away cars from the parking lot.

“We’re just being very cautious and advise people to stay away from those low-lying areas,” Abrams said.

San Luis Obispo County officials evacuated many areas Friday morning, including Port San Luis, Avila Beach, Pismo Beach, Oceano and Cayucos, according to media reports. The Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant was on high ground and continued to operate as usual.

The West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center issued a tsunami advisory for the California coastline between Point Conception west of Santa Barbara and the Mexico border and from the Oregon-Washington border to Chignik Bay, Alaska.

Officials said the advisory and warning will remain in effect until further notice. Almost all of the Pacific Rim was on tsunami alert Friday.

According to the National Weather Service, tsunami warnings mean a tsunami with significant widespread inundation is expected, along with dangerous coastal flooding. Powerful currents are possible and may continue for several hours after the initial wave. Coastal residents are asked to move inland to higher ground, and boats and ships should be repositioned to deep water when there is time to safely do so.

Tsunami advisories mean a tsunami capable of producing strong currents and waves is expected, and currents may be hazardous to swimmers, surfers, boats and coastal structures. Authorities said significant widespread inundation is not expected in advisory areas but unsettled conditions could continue for several hours afterward.

The 8.9-magnitude earthquake that slammed Japan struck at 2:46 p.m. Friday (10:46 p.m. Thursday Pacific time) and was followed within an hour by five powerful aftershocks, including a magnitude-7.1, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The USGS said the earthquake was the world’s fifth strongest recorded quake since 1900.

The quake’s epicenter was 81 miles off the coast of Sendai, the capital of Miyagi prefecture, and it struck at a depth of 12 miles.

Japan experienced widespread and devastating damage from the quake, and at least 1,000 deaths and thousands of injuries were reported. Airports were closed, the country’s bullet train services were suspended, and as many as 4 million people were without power in Tokyo. Fires sparked by the quake were burning throughout the region. Near-freezing temperatures were an added complication.

Click here for regional maps of recognized tsunami inundation hazard zones in Santa Barbara County.

» Click here for updates from the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center.

» Click here for estimated arrival times of tsunami surges along the West Coast.

» Click here for a map of the Japan earthquake and tsunami.

» Click here for the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Services. Click here to sign up for the OES’ messaging service. Follow the OES on Facebook.

» Twitter hashtags for the Japan earthquake and tsunami include #tsunami, #prayforjapan, #Sendai, #Fukushima, #Guam and #WakeIsland.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

Tsunami travel times
(West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center graphic)

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